Company catfishing – new Greenhouse data shows candidates are swiping left on employer interview processes

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September 21, 2022

4 mins, 53 secs read time

Candidates are finding themselves caught on the end of an unreliable fishing line – company catfishing is rampant in the workplace. What exactly do we mean by that? We’ll share this new trend we’re seeing, plus the recent data insights that highlight just how broken hiring processes are.


Company catfishing

Company catfishing is when the reality of company culture is misaligned with the employer brand that same company is putting out into the world.

We surveyed over 1,500 respondents who are currently employed and residing in the United States and found close to half of them (45%) have rejected positions after being catfished this way during the employer interview process.

The hiring process is one of the first steps in understanding a company’s culture from a personal perspective. You can certainly read Glassdoor reviews, scour their About Us and Mission pages and even boldly reach out to current employees on LinkedIn, Instagram or via good ol’ email to get a sense of what it’s really like to work there. But employer brand videos and pictures are curated to reveal the best and the shiniest of what a company has to offer. And from the get-go, candidates start to sniff out the pretenders from the authentic organizations when they see who is interviewing them and hear the types of questions being asked during the employer interview process.

Your company culture is showing, whether you realize it or not.

"Employer brand is something companies constantly talk about, particularly in this economic climate. However, these survey results show that candidates find out the reality of what a company prioritizes and values early in the interviewing process," according to Greenhouse Chief People Officer Donald Knight.

If you're claiming to be something you're not, you're catfishing prospective employees, and people will find out.
–Donald Knight, Chief People Officer at Greenhouse

Alarmingly, the survey findings show that almost one-third of candidates have faced discriminatory questions in a job interview, highlighting how this kind of illegal yet common practice is harming both candidates and companies.


Questionable interviewing practices

Almost 40% of respondents who identified as Black have been asked discriminatory questions, compared to 31% of white respondents. The report highlights how Black interviewees are over 25% more likely to experience illegal practices. Those who identified as female are almost 20% more likely to be faced with illegal interview questions than their male counterparts.

Digging deeper into the data, we see candidates being asked about their marital status, family planning, whether their partners worked, what their childcare arrangements were, the year they were born, if they were a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, where they were “really from” and more. The most common illegal interview questions were focused on age (35%), race (30%), marital status (28%), gender (28%), religion (20%), parental status (18%), sexual orientation (17%) and pregnancy status (14%).


Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) commitment

Over 68% of candidates believe that a diverse interview panel is fundamental to better hiring experiences and outcomes, showing that candidates care deeply about DE&I and are evaluating prospective employers through that lens. For respondents from underrepresented groups, that figure is almost 90%. With potential employees judging every touchpoint throughout the hiring process, it's more vital than ever for companies to ensure structured, fair and inclusive hiring practices that reflect the values of the company.

Whether intentional or not, it's clear that bias and discrimination are actively present throughout the hiring process. Employer brand is far more than just a webpage and free food. If you don't put your people first authentically, you'll be given the thumbs down by prospective employees.


How the hiring process reveals employer brand

Candidates shape their impression of an employer during the interview process, meaning companies hurt themselves when they fail to properly train interviewers and structure their hiring process.

When interviewing for a new company, respondents evaluate a company’s employer brand through review platforms like Glassdoor (64%), word of mouth (60%) and direct contact with current and former employees (44%). Employer brand does not just mean updating a career page on your website: almost three-fifths of respondents define employer brand as internally focused and helping to promote employee engagement within a company, such as making decisions with employees top of mind. Close to one-quarter of respondents have written a negative review for a company on an external platform.


Additional survey data shows how candidates are considering company culture and employer brands throughout the hiring process:

When considering a role, a large majority of candidates (92%) believe a healthy, diverse and inclusive company culture is integral, the leading indicators of which include:

  • Work environment – Hybrid working opportunities, flexible hours, tech support and work from home budget (72%)
  • Leadership style – Transparency, belonging, fairness (63%)
  • Community – Gives back, strong ethics and values and volunteer opportunities (53%)
  • Company mission – Clear future goals and purpose (52%)
  • Diversity – Transparency when it comes to how they approach DE&I (50%)

Almost nine out of every ten respondents mentioned the importance of interviewers highlighting a company’s values and culture during the interview process.

There’s a reason #CareerTok regularly dominates the trending topics conversation on TikTok. And why every major business publication follows the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly job reports. Candidates and employees are driving an age of uncovering – sussing out and then calling out not only companies but also hiring and workplace processes that are outdated, out of control or just flat-out biased.

If your company culture and employer brand are misaligned, it’s time to get them running in parallel. That starts with your hiring process and how you’re bringing new folks into the fold of your organization. Now is the time to ask your company the hard questions and to bring your authentic company culture into the light.

Dig into the data on our interactive report page.

Dig into the data
Dinah Alobeid

Dinah Alobeid

is the Senior Director of Content and Communications at Greenhouse. She helps shape and share the Greenhouse brand story and keeps its audiences informed on company news and industry knowledge. Dinah has over 14 years of communications and content experience in the technology field and prior to Greenhouse, she built and ran the communications team at Brandwatch. She's an avid writer, dancer, foodie and book nerd. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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